The Birdmachine & Michael Pestel
Tokyo’s bird population has declined drastically in the past 75 years. I’m told that’s due primarily to pollution and loss of traditional thatched roofs where many birds nested. Enter the crows, or kurasu, the world’s greatest synathropes, masters of what we do best: produce garbage. There are upwards of 150,000 of them terrorizing the populace with their brilliant antics and survival strategies. It's no wonder that one calls their flock a "murder" of crows. Enter the Birdmachine, a multiphonic, multi-timbrel musical instrument designed to attract and jam with birds, butoh dancers, and anyone else dedicated to avian sound and movement. That includes crows.
From March 17 to April 9, 2015, I'll be in Tokyo performing and jamming with avian butoh dancer, Taketeru Kudo, as well as with vocalist, Mika Kimura, and expatriate shakuhachi players, Yohmei Chris Blasdel and Bruce Huebner, among others. For his April 4th performance at the Tadao Ando Tokyo Art Museum in Sengawa, Chris has invited me and Mika to join him in an unusual acoustic concert space. The performance with Kudosan at Konno Hachimangu, Shibuya's oldest Shinto shrine, on March 22, is the event that set all this in motion. But mostly, I'll be busy exploring the urban soundscape by visiting places where birds used to sing, places where they still sing, and places whose bird names celebrate a particular species. As a kind of shamanic ornithologist bent on discovering the soul of Tokyo's bird life, I'll invoke an avian past of lost sounds in order to connect with the present. I know the crows will be listening!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 13, Sunday, March 29 – Evening Cherry Blossoms

After lugging the Birdmachine around kingdom come yesterday, I took a breather today and rebuilt the instrument with an eye towards more portability and ease of assembly. What would have taken an hour in my shop at home, took all afternoon here. First of all, I needed rudimentary tools. That sent me to the hardware department of Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku. I bought wood, a Japanese razor saw, tubing, screws, pipe clamps, sliding clamps, micro c-clamps, and god knows what else. It wasn't difficult to spend a hundred dollars. On the way back, I encountered a Shiba Inu, the foxiest dog on the planet. Will definitely look into finding a breeder in New England. I also stopped at a flea market near Nakano-Sakaue Station and bought an old SONY cassette tape recorder (great for recording and slowing down bird song on the fly circa twenty years ago), and some 200 year old coins from the Edo period. 

In the evening, I met Kudosan and his girlfriend at Kudanshita for a stroll around the Emperor's moat. The cherry blossoms were exploding from the sudden heat of the past few days. I've read about and seen photos of sakura for many years, but seeing them live and taking in the intensity of the national celebration, is something very special.

Of course, Colors loved the blossoms!

After strolling along the moat, it was time to eat. We headed up to the shrine under the largest Shinto gate in Japan. Concrete power!

Color's nose is remarkable!

He considered using chopsticks!

The yakuza run the food booths.

Finally, we took the subway home!

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh, it appears that Colors is developing a pink rash on his chest - probably a food allergy. He must be sneaking food at these parties when you're not looking. How do the Japanese react when you walk around with Colors under your arm?